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thealtruismsociety

Rough Draft - 8 Minutes

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Hoping for good honest feedback.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minute One – 11:53 AM

 

Dr. Charles Escher exits his lab in a hurry, slamming the door behind him, attempting to outpace the worried research assistants following him. They shout and cry out to no avail, falling far behind his anger fueled dash for the front doors of Stitch Enterprises. He looks at his watch while he runs. It is 11:53. Not much time at all he thinks to himself.

As soon as he exits the glass enclosed building, the bright glare of the sun hits his eyes, temporarily blinding him. He shies away from the sunlight in horror, throwing an arm up to protect himself from the piercing rays. After a brief moment frozen in fear, he collects himself seeing that the sunlight wasn’t harming him in any way. But that wouldn’t always be the case; he knew that as an absolute fact.

Dr. Escher is a plain looking man, average most would say. He was the stereotypical scientist like you see in the movies, thin and frail, with a white overcoat, white shirt with a plain red tie, brown slacks, and well-polished black dress shoes. His ex-wife would certainly agree, she had left him long ago with a younger man who loved motorcycles and oily hair. The only joy remaining from that relationship was his daughter, Karen. She was currently enjoying her first semester of college in Arizona. Charles wishes he could see her face right now.

He takes a pack of Marlboro’s from out his front jacket pocket, digs a lighter from his pants pocket, a lights a cigarette up. The familiar feeling of smoking rushes back to him, as he takes pleasure in the simple act inhaling and exhaling. Karen would scold him if she could see him right now but, Charles knew he no longer had to worry about his health. Not anymore.

As he stands outside of his building he catches a glance of the company logo and catch phrase, “Stitch Enterprises – Solutions in Time.” A company he had started ten years ago with one expressed purpose, to find a way to travel through time. An even though his company was already a decade old, to time travel had been a dream of his since he was a young boy.

He still remembers that fateful day, when he was only eight years old, which changed his life forever. He had been riding to the grocery store with his mother. And he remembered there had been something at the store he wanted really badly. And he kept pestering her to buy it, over and over until finally she looked back at him to tell him stop it, to waiting until they got to the store.

That second of inattentiveness, that moment of distraction, caused his mother to miss a yellow light turning to red. She drove right into the intersection as a truck sideswiped the car, hitting his mother directly. The car spun around, until it finally crashed into a nearby building. But the image that will always stay with him is when he groggily came too, amidst the smoke choking his lungs, was his mother’s face. It was twisted completely around on her neck in a way that should be impossible were she still alive. For some reason, Charles always remembers the face to have an accusatory look on it.

Shortly afterwards a policeman helped him escape from the car, dragging him from the twisted wreckage. It was at this precise moment in time, this exact instant looking at the body of his dead mother that his life was firmly set upon the path he now treads; to find a way to see his mother again. And while bringing back the past departed was beyond the tools of mankind for now and the foreseeable future. Time travel was, as Charles well knew after this morning’s successful experiment, quite possible.

Minute Two – 11:54 AM

Charles takes another drag from his cigarette, looking around the front lawn of his corporate building. He remembers how much he paid to have it landscaped, then again to have it maintained at its current level of pristineness. It was all a waste of time and money, all worthless.

He should be happy, Charles thought to himself. The first successful test of Stich Enterprises time machine had happened only moments ago. It was the first triumph after 10 years of constant failures. How ironic that he now wishes it had been another normal test, an hour of nothing happening, then weeks of readjustments. Funny, that he should wish for failure after so newly tasting victory.

The test for today had been a small part of his plans, simply the first step in a long, planned path towards the creation of a genuine time machine. One capable of ferrying people back and forth from the past as well as the future safely. Today’s test had been to merely open a window into the future. To look but not touch so to speak. And it worked, wonderfully well.

Charles taps out the ashes of his cigarette onto the ground in front of him, ignoring the butt can beside him completely. Even now his employees were probably trying to pull up what he had seen through that brief glimpse into time, that one moment of clarity. But they wouldn’t be able to, he had made sure of that. He had hopelessly ruined the very software he had helped design to run the high tech equipment used for time-peer, a phrase he had lovingly patented years ago. All rights reserved, although now it was a meaningless title.

No they would try in vain to recreate the steps made to open the portal as he had done moments before. And given enough time, they would be able to do so. Unfortunately for them, time was a rapidly dwindling commodity. Of course his head researcher, Laura would notice the extent of the damage done right away. She was a smart girl that one, one of the reasons he’s snatched her up from Oxford College immediately after reading her thesis paper on separating time and space, something of a complete affront to Saint Einstein. Charles had seen merit in her work right away and had made a very reasonable salary offer as well as freedom to continue her research, under the Stich Enterprises umbrella of course.

Charles looks at his watch. No, it’s wasn’t time for her to come out here yet. He still had a few minutes. Finishing his cigarette, he carelessly tosses it to the sidewalk, not even watch to see if it bounces in the grass or not. What was a little fire anyway, it certainly wouldn‘t be the end of the world. For some reason that thought strike him funny, and he laughs out loud, causing several passerby’s to eye him strangely.

Minute Three – 11:55 AM

Charles wipes a tear from his eye and makes his way to the grassy front lawn of Stich Enterprises. The grass is thick, spongy, and very green. Charles wonders why he never noticed how beautiful the grass outside his building looked before. It was a wonder of man cultivated nature. He sits down on the lawn, and on a whim, takes off his shoes and socks tossing them behind him. He luxuriates in the feel of the grass between his toes.

Falling back, he looks up towards the sky, marveling in the rich blues, watching the puffy white fluffs of cloud passing by. This was certainly not the behavior of the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company, but Charles no longer cared about opinion. He realized he didn’t care about anything anymore, nothing seemed to matter. Not his job, his career, or even his daughter. Caring was no longer a luxury Charles could count on.

Laying on the ground, Charles begin to daydream, and as is so often the case, he thinks about what would happen if he could ever travel back in time. He knows a child he wanted more than anything to go back to the day his mother died, and beg the past Charles to not bug his mother so much in the car, to talk to her when they got to the store. After so many years that kind of dream still lingered in his mind, but as an adult he knew about such things as Paradox. Indeed the very fact of him warning his past self about the accident would remove his need to study time travel for his entire life, thus negating his trip back. Fortunately, Charles wouldn’t have to worry about that sort of thing anymore. He looks at his watch and counts another minute of his life taken away, it is now 11:55.

Minute Four – 11:56 AM

Charles thoughts turn to Karen, his only daughter. He wondered what she was doing right now, what she would be doing … a few minutes from now. He decides he wants to hear her voice again. Pulling out his cell phone he dials in his daughter’s phone number. After a few rings he almost hangs up rather than leave an answering machine message she wouldn’t check, but Karen answers right before he does.

“Hello?” The voice on the end asks.

Charles sighs slightly hearing his daughter safe and sound.

“Karen, it’s your dad.” He says slowly.

“Daddy! How are you doing? You actually caught me right between classes.”

His daughter sounds happy and energetic, full of life and energy. Part of Charles is happy to be speaking with his daughter. A smaller, darker part of him silently wishes that he and his ex-wife had never had children; it would have made things easier.

Charles collects himself and tries to keep his voice calm and even. Karen is a bright girl and he doesn’t want her to have to suffer any undue worry.

“How is school?” He asks.

“It’s great, I know we haven’t spoken in a while, but I wanted you to know I think I’ll maintain my 4.0 average.”

She sounds so excited, Charles just doesn’t have the nerve to tell her school isn’t as important as she thinks. Better for her to live the lie a bit longer at least.

“That’s great honey, I’m so proud of you.” He manages to say.

“Hey Daddy, do you think you’ll be able to come up and watch my graduation ceremony?” She asks.

She was trying not to sound like she was pleading, and failing miserably. Charles didn’t have the heart to tell her that no, there was no way he would be coming to her graduation ceremony. Something else had come up.

“Of course baby, I wouldn’t miss it.” He answers.

“Awesome!” She says, clearly excited. “Look Daddy, I have to go to class now but … thanks for calling, you should do it more often.”

“Good idea honey, I’ll try. Goodbye.” Charles answers before hanging up the phone. A drop of liquid falls on the screen of his cell phone and he puts out a hand while searching the sky for rain. It takes a moment for him to realize the drop of water was a tear and that he was crying. This realization catches his unawares and before he knows it, he body is wracked with the spasms of his sobbing, and he is powerless to stop it.

Minute Five 11:57 AM

After his body stops shaking and his tear ducts are tapped for liquid, Charles casually glances back at the headquarters of Stich Enterprises.

The building was a 4 story monolith, all dark, black glass, reflecting the world around it. It had been commissioned for him by the finest architect in Boston. It was designed to be completely green, running of a combination of solar power, and energy saving initiatives throughout the building. Looking up his smiles at the living roof which insulates the building as well as providing a fresh garden providing fresh vegetables for Charles lunches. Yes it was a marvel of engineering and, Charles thinks to himself, not worth a single penny spent on its construction.

Looking into one of the ground floor windows, he can see the hallway outside of the lab he had been in minutes ago. The hallway is aflutter with activity as his personal run about like crazed ants. Indeed, Charles actions early had been the proverbial picking up of an ant farm and shaking it to hell. He can see standing inside, hands on her thin hips, directing the human maelstrom. She looked just as had when he had first hired her, short brown hair, thin frame, horn rimmed glasses, a fiery personality, and the will to never quit.

Ironically as the head of a company whose outlook was to cheat time, he currently found himself cheated of it. He would never be able to tell the younger woman how he felt about her. How her ideas and the passionate way she delivered them to believers and detractors alike attracted him in a way physical appearance never could. Not that she was unattractive, but Charles was definitely in love with her brain.

Any moment now, he thought to himself. Laura would see the extent of the damage Charles had caused. She would know it was him immediately and track him down.

He looks at his watch briefly. It was almost 11:57. No it was not her time too yet, but soon.

Minute Six – 11:58 AM

Watching the commotion inside, he thinks back to his discovery earlier. It should have been the crowning point of his career, the start of a new round of government financing and an increase in his standard of living. Instead what he had seen in the future had caused him to temporarily sabotage his own software and equipment, for fear his coworkers would see what he had seen. It was better for them this way, to struggle on the path of blissful ignorance. Charles knows he would have wanted to live the same way if someone else had gazed through time, and seen what he had seen.

He still remembers looking through the portal made manifest by billions of dollars’ worth of taxpayers money. For such an immense drain of resources, the resulting window into time was small, only a few inches in diameter. The picture within was active, like the top waves of the ocean, but perfectly clear otherwise. He remembers how he marveled over what he was seeing, the world in the not so distant future. He remembers in horror what he saw next. How the fear in his face was reflected in the eyes of his employees. How he must have appeared to his colleagues, turning mad and beginning to wreck equipment, knocking computer racks over, and smashing various pieces of delicate equipment. How in his last panicked moments within the lab he had used his administrative access to delete crucial files need by their computer system to even function. Anything to prevent anyone else from seeing … that future.

Awakening from his daydream, he looks up to see someone, and employee speaking in an animated fashion to Laura, pointing directly at him in the lawn. Laura spins around and gives him as cross a look as he can ever remember getting. He looks at his watch, it was about 11:59 almost noon. Right on time.

Minute Seven – 11:59 AM

Charles watches in an almost detached manner as Julia storms out of the Stitch Enterprises building, making straight away for his location; no doubt with full intention to chew his ass out. At any other time he would be extremely wary of that steeled gaze and the square set of her shoulders. Instead he simply begins to pull grass away from the lawn, tosses it up into the sky, and watches as it floats back down towards the Earth.

“Just what on Earth do you think you’re doing?” Julia asks as she reaches his location. “I hope you have a serious explanation, like you’ve suddenly gone bat shit insane … actually that’s the only excuse I’ll accept right now. Do you know what you’ve done?” She shouts, arms folded across her breasts. She pauses looking at his feet. “And are you barefoot?” She asks incredulously.

“Have a seat Laura.” Charles says simply, motioning towards the lawn.

Laura looks at him with her head slanted. “I’d rather stand. No. I’d rather you get up, go back inside right now and fix everything you ruined. I put my life and my career in your hands, and for what?” She asks angrily.

“Please?” Charles pleads.

Laura looks at him again with an unreadable expression then drops to the lawn with a huff. Charles looks at his watch again, sighs and then continues.

“We have no time left Laura, but let me tell you what I saw in the portal.” Laura’s ears perk up at the mention of the time-peer.

“I saw the future Laura. And what I saw I didn’t want anyone else to see, but I will tell you. We opened a portal into the future. It worked Laura, thanks to you it worked.”

Laura smiles and nods at this praise, all anger temporarily forgotten. Charles smiles back before continuing.

“But what I saw, 8 minutes into the future was the light from our sun exploding, finally reaching Earth, bathing the planet in its hellish energies. I saw the end of the world and the end of everything alive on this planet. I saw the end of humanity Laura. The end of all our hopes and our dreams, all of our accomplishments and tragedies, all of it snuffed out in an instant.” He looks at his watch again. “And that instant is only 15 seconds away. He smiles with sad eyes that betray his mouth.

Sudden horror dawns on Laura’s face. Tears start to stream down her cheeks, all thoughts of his sabotage forgotten. She leans close and envelopes Charles in a brutal, bittersweet hug, her sobs shaking her small body. Charles holds her close.

“You gotta wonder.” He says finally. “Did I really see the end of the world? Or is the world ending because I tried to see it with God’s eyes?” He looks at his watch again just as it hits 12:00 noon.

Minute Eight – 12:00 Noon

The sky erupts with a light brighter than life itself. Soon the light is all that is left.

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Thank you. This was much easier to read.

But I have nothing to add to my comments in the Novel Writing forum.

-Thoth

 

Meaning none of your concerns were addressed in the new version, or you have nothing additional to add?

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Meaning none of your concerns were addressed in the new version, or you have nothing additional to add?

As I said: nothing to add.

-T

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I assume your asking why should I wait, not why am I submitting I hope? :)

 

I dunno, the editors would be busy with the holiday season and all. Maybe that's what I was thinking.

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I dunno, the editors would be busy with the holiday season and all. Maybe that's what I was thinking.

As near as I can tell, editors are always busy. Isn't everyone? So there is always a backlog. One would think that the sooner you submit the sooner an editor would get to your manuscript. I could be wrong. Book publishers have their budgets and genre lists to fill. Magazine publishers have print deadlines. But they don't throw away the backlog just because they filled the current slots. There is always the next cycle.

 

There might be an optimal time of year to submit in order to improve your chances. If so, I don't know what it is.

- Thoth

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Wow ... the forums butchered the formatting lol.

 

Hey there, I just gave your story a read and here are some quick thoughts:

 

I thought it odd that no dialogue came until the fourth minute or halfway through the story, a bit too much show, not enough tell in the first half.

 

I liked the listing of the minutes to pace the story and I thought the story was most interesting when dealing with the relationships between the characters.

 

At the beginning of the 7th minute you refer to 'Laura' as 'Julia' twice. I guess you changed the character's name and missed these spots.

 

The story reminded me of a few others (this is not a criticism, just a thought): Don McKellar's indie film 'Last Night' about how people behaved knowing the world would end at midnight, Aurthur C. Clarke's short story The Star where a group of space explorers come back to Earth with proof that god doesn't exist, and the accident part reminded me of The Time Traveller's Wife where the protagonist lost his mother in very similar circumstances.

 

My main problem with the story is the reveal at the end. Our sun is not big enough to go supernova, it would collapse first after all the hydrogen is turned to helium and then after fusion stops it would become a red giant possibly consuming the Earth, so if that were to happen all of a sudden, there would be other signs before the 8 minute eradication of the earth. It's a bit hard to suspend disbelief unless the point is that god is punishing man for tampering with time, which seems a bit unsatisfying. The interesting part about Last Night is that the movie never says why the earth is ending, it just is. I wanted to hear an explanation but it probably would've been difficult to come up with something convincing. In the end it didn't matter why it was ending, because it was about the character's reaction to their situation.

 

Anyhow, thanks for sharing, good luck with it.

 

David.

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Hey there, I just gave your story a read and here are some quick thoughts:

 

I thought it odd that no dialogue came until the fourth minute or halfway through the story, a bit too much show, not enough tell in the first half.

 

I liked the listing of the minutes to pace the story and I thought the story was most interesting when dealing with the relationships between the characters.

 

At the beginning of the 7th minute you refer to 'Laura' as 'Julia' twice. I guess you changed the character's name and missed these spots.

 

The story reminded me of a few others (this is not a criticism, just a thought): Don McKellar's indie film 'Last Night' about how people behaved knowing the world would end at midnight, Aurthur C. Clarke's short story The Star where a group of space explorers come back to Earth with proof that god doesn't exist, and the accident part reminded me of The Time Traveller's Wife where the protagonist lost his mother in very similar circumstances.

 

My main problem with the story is the reveal at the end. Our sun is not big enough to go supernova, it would collapse first after all the hydrogen is turned to helium and then after fusion stops it would become a red giant possibly consuming the Earth, so if that were to happen all of a sudden, there would be other signs before the 8 minute eradication of the earth. It's a bit hard to suspend disbelief unless the point is that god is punishing man for tampering with time, which seems a bit unsatisfying. The interesting part about Last Night is that the movie never says why the earth is ending, it just is. I wanted to hear an explanation but it probably would've been difficult to come up with something convincing. In the end it didn't matter why it was ending, because it was about the character's reaction to their situation.

 

Anyhow, thanks for sharing, good luck with it.

 

David.

 

Hey thanks for reading and comments!

 

Good catch with the name too, totally missed that.

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